Commentary: Do you want to take your content marketing strategy to the next level?

Earning consumer trust through content requires it to be timely, agile, easily accessible and honest. Listed below are a few points that can help marketers in their content marketing journey in 2022 and beyond

Akansha Srivastava
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Until now, one must have come across several trend stories about content marketing. Most of them have talked about how gaming and e-sports are going to be the talk of the town. Technology to further enable content marketers, social commerce and short-form content to bloom, vernacular and audio content to rule content marketing, so on and so forth. The listicle below is a compilation of pointers that every content marketer should pin on their desktop or workstation as regular reminders to stay on top of their game. 

With an experience of writing innumerable articles on content marketing in the last four years and speaking to hundreds of content marketing practitioners, it might be an outrageous attempt still, but I have taken the liberty of sharing my thoughts on how one can go about enhancing their content marketing strategy in 2022. 

Do give it a read. 

Don’t forget to tell stories

One very valuable skill human beings have possessed and cherished since ancient times is the art of storytelling. There are reports that prove telling a story makes information way more memorable. In the current scenario, it has become really difficult to tell stories across several platforms where the brand has to be present and tell the same story in different forms. This sounds like a lot of work, right? But this shouldn’t deter brands from telling stories, keeping consumers at the heart of it. Brands must try to keep the human element intact even when they’re marketing at scale. Although, one must ensure that while telling the story, the brand should not be talking down to the consumers and preach them. Also, not all stories have to be heart-wrenching or even extremely funny. A simple, light-hearted story can also be as impactful as any humorous or emotional narrative. All one has to do is to be relatable, meaningful, keeping consumers at the centre of it. For example, P&G Shiksha’s film ‘Munni’. It’s simple, not tear-jerking, but touches one’s heart. The film doesn’t attempt to create a tsunami of emotions in someone’s mind, but is capable of creating ripples in anyone’s heart. 

Build a community of people with shared interests

When telling stories, brands should remember to help people find commonalities. People love interacting with each other on the basis of shared interests and a chance to discover new things together. It gives them a sense of belongingness. We mustn’t forget that smart mobile phones and the advent of short-form content apps have put content creation in the hands of the audience. Marketers should remember that they have millions of potential content creators at their disposal. Brands need to find them and make them their advocates. Brands either bank on already existing communities or build their own. In 2020, OnePlus released a documentary titled ‘" target="_blank" rel="noopener">United by Hope’. The documentary was shot on OnePlus. Aligned with OnePlus’ community focus, the documentary is an ode to the OnePlus community that brings to life relatable feelings and emotions that one experienced by capturing the lives of these individuals during the new normal.

Culture does its own marketing

So many times, I’ve heard marketers talk about culture marketing. A brand can help shape culture, but not create one. Brands must realise that creating a cultural movement is not in our control. All brands have to do is to be immersed in the culture that builds itself at any given point in time. There is no harm in being part of the pop culture, but don’t try to run it. The themes and narratives one chooses to abide by in content have to come from a place of considered intent and should not look like naive accidents. The brand must decide if it wants to test boundaries of what is acceptable in a culture or play safe. It should be in the brand’s DNA to understand it thrives in. It is not just the marketer’s job to take care of the culture aspect for the brand.

For example, Unacademy’s marketing has been a clear winner in engaging with the youth through pop culture. But it caught the trolls' eyes when it found itself in the middle of a raging controversy after a question paper in an online assignment on the Indian Penal Code (IPC) went viral on social media platforms. The question read “In a city named X, a group of Muslim people were carrying out their rally on the occasion of Eid. They were chanting their slogans and were celebrating their festivals. When they were passing through the streets of a Hindu dominated colony, the Hindus of the area started pelting stones at them and claimed that they outraged the religious feelings of Hindus. Is the claim correct?” This question provoked religious sentiments, it got viral on social media, and no amount of marketing could save the brand which had to delete the question from the paper and issue an apology. 

Is your content helpful enough?

Havas Group’s Meaningful Brands report 2021 states that compared to pre-Covid times, ‘helpful’ content is on the rise as consumers figure out how to navigate their personal new normal. Unfortunately, almost half (48%) of all content provided by brands is not meaningful to consumers. The Havas report should serve as a wake-up call for content marketers, especially since we keep emphasising on ‘content’ in every conversation we have. Every now and then, a content marketer should introspect if they are offering the right content that consumers actually need. Understanding the mindset, psyche, interests, habits, preferences, lifestyle, behaviour, anything and everything that describes the consumer better and more accurately can empower us to create more relatable content. There has been a conscious shift towards spiritual consumption. For example, people are more interested in engaging with content that focuses on health, mental wellbeing and social upliftment.

Content experience is the new content marketing

We have always spoken about content marketing, its aspects, growth, and ways to improve it. But now it’s high time to start talking about the ‘content experience’, an important aspect of marketing. A villager consumes content in a very different way from a working woman in a metro city or a gamer, a teacher or even a CEO at a multinational company. The way in which the audience consumes content varies, and this is what content experience is all about. It consists of a consumer’s content touchpoint and engagement with a brand’s content across mediums and devices and how it appeals to his or her senses and emotions across its journey.

Today, brands are actually collections of experiences. People do not really remember logos or ads. I remember speaking to a senior marketer. During our chat, he recalled the famous ‘Great Khali ad’ but attributed it to Ultratech Cement, instead of Ambuja Cement the ones who made it. It proves that curated brand experiences not only provide one-of-a-kind interactions for the customers but also are more impactful as they are more likely to be retained in the long-term memory. Therefore, one must understand that great brands are not just built on media screens, but when consumers get to experience them across various touchpoints, be it offline or online. 

Work on a clean slate every time

Many a times marketers and their agency/platform partners face creative blocks. ​​In fact, even after doing everything to make a campaign reach its audience in every nook and corner, it ends up being not that effective. A thing that one forgets is that what has worked for a particular campaign might not work for another one. Instead of the “leaving no stone unturned” approach, the marketers should “work on a clean slate every time”. So many times, agencies and platforms flood marketers with hundreds of marketing options to choose from in the name of integrated marketing communication. It can definitely overwhelm anyone. Instead, what one should do is to start over fresh each time, get the objective and target audience straight and then go about choosing marketing routes to engage with the audience. Unlike before, and luckily now, technology enables one to map the consumer journey at any given point across platforms, no matter what marketing technique one deploys. 

Go beyond click activism

For many, talking about trending causes has become a way of managing their social media calendars instead of serving its original purpose – a chance for brands to wield their influence for social good and connect with consumers in a way that goes beyond selling products. For example, so many brands come up with campaigns around Women’s Day, celebrate LGBT communities on Pride Day, but how many of them actually do something on the ground. Consumers are not fools and they can see through the pretences. But the brands that have nailed online activism with real action are the ones that stand out.

For example, Britannia Marie Gold’s My Startup Contest’, that empowers homemakers to become businesspeople by granting each winning business idea Rs 10 lakh. Another example is Times of India’s ‘Out and Proud Classifieds’ (2019), a campaign that covered the stories of people from the LGBTQ+ community and introduced a section in the publication’s classifieds that would carry ads and announcements from people like them. Gillette India’s ‘Barber Parivar Suraksha Programme’ (2021) has been developed to provide a health insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh to barbers and their families. The examples that I have mentioned are not merely social media campaigns or emotional long-form films, but they go beyond click-activism. Consumers are more likely to endorse brands that don’t just adopt a social stance in the digital world but are willing to execute them in the real world.

Wrapping Up

To conclude, I would emphasise the point that not every content piece should be made in order to fetch immediate ROIs in terms of business. Some should be left to serve brand-building objectives, leading to better results for the business in the long run. 

Commentary Do you want to take your content marketing strategy to the next level